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Archive for March 19, 2010

Saturday, 20 March, 2010 – Anza Borrego Desert State Park and nurseries around Carlsbad

After the disappointment of not seeing the red spined Ferocacti in Baja, Eunice offered to take the Japanese party to the Anza Borrego Desert State Park. There was some hesitation, as this would eat into the time allocated for shopping at cactus & other succulent plant nurseries. ‘Remember, Mr. Kobayashi, where we saw the crested multi-headed Ferocactus last year?’ That sealed it!

This was probably the most focussed part of any cactus trip I have been on. There were Ooohs and Aaaahs as the number of cacti along the road and up the hillsides increased. Most Ferocactus cylindraceus were in flower, but each time that we asked ‘Shall we stop here?’ the reply was always the same: ‘Does the cristate Fero grow here?’ Because the answer was ‘Not yet, but we’re close’, we carried on. This was causing Eunice some stress as she was desperate for us to stop so that she could look up the exact GPS for the cristate, rather than rely on her memory. Almost immediately after a US Border Control check point, I thought that I might have saved the day by spotting a clump of Echinocereus engelmannii and Opuntia basilaris in flower. This proved too much of a temptation and we all piled out of the bus to take their picture (S1767a). Guillermo Rivera would have been envious of the speed with which we returned to the bus. Eunice was disappointed, as her HD with the data was playing up and she was still unable to get to the GPS information.

Fortunately she has a great memory and heaved a huge sigh of relief as she spotted the cristate, some 20 m. from the road. Again, we piled out of the bus but this time were just a little bit more relaxed about taking it’s picture and more of the other plants around us. But once back on the bus, that was it; Nurseries next.

There was a brief stop in Santa Ysobel, just past Julian, where the Julian Pie Company have an outlet where they sell excellent Dutch Apple Pie.

Next stop was Vista, where most people disappeared in the tunnels of C&J’s, not normally open to the public and certainly not during the weekend. I had been there in 2008 and preferred to join Mr Kobayashi on a visit to Steve Hammer’s Spheroid Institute, just a few hundred meters up the road. Steve & Mr. K. share an interest in Haworthia with a special interest in the ‘weird & wonderful’, variegated forms. 

After a couple of hours of peace and quiet, Steve got anxious phone calls from Jim, the J in C&Js, as the Japanese seemed to be ready to leave and were getting restless.

Our arrival at C&Js seemed to have triggered a second buying spree, as more crates of plants emerged from the greenhouses and joined the informal check-out queue. Our bus was already packed to maximum capacity, so I was glad when I learned that Jim would post the plants to Japan with the appropriate documentation.

It seemed that now we had struck a happy balance between plants in habitat and nurseries. More nursery and collection visits are planned for tomorrow.

Friday, 19 March, 2010 – Isla Cedros to Carlsbad

The calendar still points at 22 March, but today we stopped of at Fry’s, the magical electronics warehouse that we seem to visit every time that we are in the area. I managed to buy a DC converter that allows me to run my laptop from the car’s cigarette lighter!  That means that I can now sit on the shady side of the back of the car and write my diaries and down load images from cards. Very useful, except of course on most roads in Bahia and off road anywhere. Roll on the day that all laptops come with solid state HDs so that they are unlikely to be damaged by the heads crashing into the drive’s fast spinning disk.

After that I will of course want a satellite link to the internet so that I can check my email messages.

Back to Friday, 19th. Time had come to leave the island and go back ‘home’ or in this case, the US of A.’ It seems inevitable with air travel that there are long waits – for transport to the airport, even if it is just a small airstrip; at the airport to clear security – easily the most detailed check of luggage and papers that I have endured at any border crossing; and then the wait for the plane to arrive.

Turnaround between landing and unloading and then for our 12 strong party to board the plane was much faster of course than for a jumbo jet or similar. I was offered the chance of taking the co-pilot seat so had a wonderful view, with cameras and video in action much of the time (S1764).

After arriving at the military airport at Ensenada, our luggage again underwent a thorough search. What had these folk done wrong to have to spent their day going through other people’s dirty washing!

We were met by Francisco who had a15 seater bus, smaller than the one driven by Joel that had taken us from San Diego to Ensenada at the start of the week. Joel’s bus hade been involved in a scrap with a truck and he was delayed completing insurance claim forms. Francisco took us to a very colourful restaurant near La Bufadora, the blow hole that seems to feature in every tourist guide for the peninsula. We were more interested in getting some food and drinks (S1765) and, once the transfer of luggage to Joel’s bus had been completed, we were keen to get back on the road.

Mr Kobayashi had asked if we could drive some 50 km south Ensenada along Mex 1, where he had seen dense stands of a red spined Ferocacti, growing in flat sandy soil. That visit had been in September 2005, when everything had been very dry. Now, the desert was looking quite lush after unusual large quantities of rain during February and everything must have looked quite different.

I could not recall having seen red spined Feros growing in sand until well past San Quintin.  As time clicked by, Mr Kobayashi came to the same conclusion. Joel pulled the bus over and maps were pulled out. While plan B was being created, I took a stroll around and soon had found a small Ferocactus viridescens almost hidden in the tall grass. Everyone came running over to take its picture and with the first plant found, others soon followed. And so, Plan B created itself; a thirty minute cactus stop (S1766).

We could now head back north again. It was dark by the time that we arrived in Tijuana, where it only took some 30 minutes to get through the border.

Finally, just after eleven, we arrived in Carlsbad and after booking in at the Motel 6 there, we went for dinner at JB’s, the only place still open.

The Japanese were as usual in good spirits and I managed to get some Guinness so I was happy too.

Tomorrow was planned to be a mixture of shopping and a time in the desert – only in California.